'Despicable Me 2' still delivers
We're barely a month into the summer blockbuster season and already have had to endure more sequels with over-the-top plotlines, self-important heroes, and multimegaton explosions than anyone should consume in a lifetime, including Fast & Furious 6, Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Hatchet 3.
Happily, one sequel doesn't take itself too seriously: the animated supervillain family pic Despicable Me 2, featuring the inimitable Steve Carell as the voice of that nefarious and most gruesome of all baddies, Gru.
Sure, it visits the same ground as the 2010 monster hit, which to date has earned more than half a billion dollars worldwide. And yeah, the jokes, digital-effects wizardry, and visual gags will be familiar to fans of the first.
But Despicable Me 2 still manages to deliver more fun per pound than the bloated Man of Steel, director Zach Snyder's attempt to re-re-re-resurrect the Superman franchise.
When we last saw Gru, he had given up villainy - of either the super or minor kind - to take care of his three adopted daughters, Margo, Edith, and Agnes.
We learn that Gru and his best friend, the ancient and remarkably decrepit Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), have embarked on a new career path, making jellies and jams.
As the film opens, Gru and his lovable Minions are hosting a lavish, fairground-style birthday party for Agnes on the front lawn of their Gothic, Dr. Frankensteinian house in the suburbs.
But fate has plans for Gru, and he's pulled back into the supervillain business when comely Anti-Villain League superagent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) recruits him to fight the forces of evil and save the world.
Seems a mega-bad-guy who runs a store at the nearby mall has stolen a secret serum that can turn anyone it touches into an invincible homicidal - and very purple - monster.
Madcap adventures and derring-do follow, including car chases, rocket rides, fistfights, and even a cockfight.
There's romance: Gru nearly has a breakdown when his eldest girl, Margo, falls for a smooth-talking, black-leather-jacket-clad operator named Antonio Perez (Moisés Arias). For his part, Gru goes all goo-goo for Lucy.
A happy ending is had by all.
If you're looking for quality prepackaged, predigested Hollywood family fun this summer, you could do a lot worse than Despicable Me 2.
Despicable Me 2 **1/2 (out of four stars)
Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud. Voices by Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Russell Brand. Distributed by Universal Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 38 mins.
Parent's guide: PG (mild scares, rude humor, use of flatulence guns)
Playing at: area theaters
Contact Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or firstname.lastname@example.org.